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Thinking About the Unthinkable: How to Make Estate Planning Easier

January 24, 2016
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Death is a tricky subject. It's certainly not something we like to think of very often, nor is it something we regularly discuss with others—perhaps aside from our conversations with our priests and pastors, or in our prayers to God

Interestingly, working in wealth management, I'm one of the few professionals outside of the medical field with whom it's appropriate to be talking about death and dying. I am, of course, referring to estate and succession planning. What I've noticed through many of the conversations I've had with my clients is that it's a very important topic few people will willingly bring up themselves.

For my part, I know just how precious and brief our time here on Earth is. Many years ago, I went through a tremendously difficult time after losing both of my parents within months of moving my family away from home. Among many lessons, the experience highlighted just how valuable it is to have a detailed estate plan and to communicate that plan to others. 

I've heard many excuses for avoiding making estate plans, but none of them has been very good. Let's discuss some of these excuses and how we can get beyond them. 

1. "I'm too busy."

With work, bills, shepherding children around, getting dinner on the table, and all of our other daily activities, it's somewhat understandable why many people forego spending time making plans and thinking about the future. However, according to research published in a 2014 edition of Forbes, 51 percent of Americans ages 54 to 65 and 62 percent ages 45 to 54 have NOT drafted their wills yet. I can guarantee that all of those people can find at least some time in their schedule to take care of something so essential. 

If you've not done so already, find some spare time this week to draft out a will. Choosing your beneficiaries along with your executor(s) are two necessities that should not be delayed. Set aside time now, just for a minute, and think about how you'll take care of your family and loved ones in the future. 

2. "There's nothing to plan." 

Too often, I encounter people who believe their finances will simply take care of themselves once they pass on. Further, with student loans and other types of debt affecting a huge amount of Americans, others seem to believe they won't be leaving anything to their families in the future. 

However, this is rarely true. A home, a condo, a car, a necklace—all of these things should be documented with the beneficiaries decided in writing. You would be amazed by the legal burdens some of these possessions can create once a death in the family occurs, no matter the size of what you're leaving behind. Understand these things will not simply take care of themselves, and by not making time to craft your estate plan, you're only harming your loved ones in the long run. 

3. "It's just too confusing."

The answer to this excuse is yes, estate planning, crafting a will, establishing trusts, these can all be confusing, even intimidating at times. There are legal and financial questions that require answers. It's certainly not something that can be done alone. Finding the appropriate professionals you can trust is so vital to this process, and if these professionals are doing their jobs correctly, they should make thinking about your estate plan much easier. 

The relationship you form with whomever you choose to help you is important, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. This isn't a decision you'll want to leave up to some Yelp reviews or a random radio ad. Seek out several different options. Come to know these professionals on a personal level. After all, these are people who will be partially entrusted to your legacy and your family's well-being. Make sure they're putting your interests first.

Choosing with Care (and Trust)

I know better than most these conversations surrounding estate planning can conjure up a certain amount of anxiety and fear, but above all, they should be honest and candid. At the end of the day, we want to make sure our loved ones are taken care of, no matter what. The only way to do this is by putting ourselves in the correct mindset and working with financial and legal professionals we trust. As always, I'm available to have these conversations whenever you have questions or concerns, large or small. Further, we have a whole host of estate management resources available on our website.

I always want to ensure you feel confident about taking care of your family, so please don't hesitate to reach out.

John Lindsey is President and CEO at Lindsey & Lindsey Wealth Management. After years of experience in executive leadership and finance, John founded Lindsey & Lindsey Wealth Management in 2012 to be able to better serve his client base with an expanded universe of investment offerings. His biggest piece of advice is to always stay true to yourself and never compromise when that compromise would endanger your principles. 

Securities America and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult the appropriate professional regarding your specific situation.